Day 3 of my Doctor Who Literary Week: Doctor Who & the heart of Science Fiction

It’s day 3 of my Doctor Who Literary Week . Today Ebony McKenna guest blogs with a piece about how the Doctor Who series manages to capture …

The Heart of Science Fiction

by Ebony McKenna

Science fiction is fabulously geared towards solving problems. And there never seems to be a lack of them: climate change, water shortages, wars, pestilence, alien invasion, megalomaniacs bent on world domination (ooops, I think I’m talking about myself there).

It seems an emotionless genre: Here’s a problem, let’s fix it, let’s move on. Emotions on the other hand can’t be fixed – they need soothing, examining, nurturing. It would seem to be the very opposite of problem solving. But when you combine problem solving with emotions – as they do so well in Doctor Who – you get magic.

I’d been a fan for so long – except when Bonnie Langford came along and everything took a dive into pantomime and screaming

When Doctor Who came back to our screens after such a long break, I was filled with anguish. Would it be any good? Would it be only for the fanboys and leave the rest of us scratching our heads? Would it be too populist and ignore decades of canon?

Instead, it appealed to loads of people and kept the fan base happy, an incredible double act. They achieved this because they poured their hearts into the show and made it about emotions and problems.

Watching the first episode with Christopher Eccleston, my heart soared with joy. It was like catching up with an old friend. An old friend who’d fallen hard times a while back, but was now doing really well. I’d been a fan for so long, except when Bonnie Langford came along and everything took a dive into pantomime and screaming. (Or maybe that’s all I remember of it. I’m too scared to go back and watch in case it’s even worse than I recall.)

What cemented the new Doctor Who in my heart was the two-parter written by Steven Moffatt: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. A war orphan wearing a gas mask walks up to people asking, “Are you my mummy?” It was so horrible and creepy I’ve come over in goosebumps thinking about it. 

The problem solving plot involved medical nanogenes using a boy in a gasmask as a template for humans. The nanos needed a proper template or they’d turn the entire population into gasmask-wearing zombies. (This would seriously cramp Captain Jack’s style!) 

The resolution required the very best of emotions – unconditional love. The Doctor says, “There isn’t a little boy born who wouldn’t tear the world apart to save his mummy. And this little boy can.” Young Nancy confesses her terrible secret that Jamie is in fact her son and not her little brother. Nancy embraces her son with all the love she has in her. Love saves the world! 

It set the tone for future episodes involving emotional turmoil and problems of an epic scale, but also with a heart that beat true and steady. Not every episode combines both – but the ones that work brilliantly manage to get the very best of both worlds. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Ebony admits to a spooky Doctor Who connection – her initials have appeared on a Doctor Who book cover!

The cover for Doctor Who: Cold Fusion

The cover for Cold Fusion - can you spot Ebony's initials?


Don’t believe me? There’s a detailed explanation by Jon Preddle at ‘Doctor’s Dilemma’. (Scroll down to the discussion about Alister Pearson’s cover art.)

Ebony also talks about this weird fact on her blog.

Ebony McKenna is the author of Ondine, published with Egmont Press. Click here to visit Ebony’s website.




The Australian & New Zealand cover of Ondine

The cover for Ebony's novel, Ondine (Aust/NZ vers)